Reports of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK have grown 36% in a year, says the country’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
The body released its National Strategic Assessment report on Tuesday, outlining the most serious threats of organised crime in the UK. The report said human trafficking and modern slavery are predominantly undertaken by organised crime groups from the UK, Romania, Albania and Vietnam, involving victims from those nations.
Figures have increased from 5,142 in 2017 to 6,993 in 2018.
Victims can be exploited to work for little to no pay at car washes, construction sites and farms, with catering becoming an increasingly popular sector to hide exploitation of mainly men.
Women are the most commonly identified potential victims of sexual exploitation. Adult services websites “almost certainly remain a key enabler” of exploitation, the report says, although there has been a slight decline in reporting in the past year.
The NCA says organised crime groups are likely to partake in exploiting other people as a sideline alongside other types of crime, such as smuggling and financial offences.
They lure victims in with promises of a “better life”, recruiting mainly face-to-face. However, fake job adverts online can also be used to convince a victim to become involved with the perpetrators.
The NCA says organised crime groups are also active in camps in Calais and beyond, with rival groups even working together to secure cash from desperate migrants. It estimates that vulnerable people pay smugglers between £400 and £13,000 to get them into the UK.
The main groups putting themselves at risk of perilous journeys by using smugglers are Eritreans, Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans.
The NCA blames “juxtaposed border controls” for the majority of clandestine entries into the UK.
“These controls are part of an arrangement between the UK, France and Belgium, whereby immigration checks on certain cross-Channel routes take place before boarding a train or ferry, rather than on arrival,” it reads.
“In 2018, the number of Eritreans detected at juxtaposed controls increased notably, with Eritrean nationals found concealed in refrigerated lorries and containers, likely indicating growing levels of organisation."
The report also found that despite frantic news coverage of migrants attempting to reach the shores of the UK by boat, these arrivals make up less than 1% of total irregular migrant detections in 2018.